By Fungi Kwaramba
In spite of widespread condemnation of the uneven electoral playing field which favours the governing party, the under-fire Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has received unconditional support from Zanu PF, in what effectively quashes any hopes for reforms ahead of the July 30 polls.
This comes as the country’s largest opposition party is piling up pressure on Zec to urgently remove imperfections threatening the credibility of the vote to be fiercely contested between President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu PF and Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance.
The MDC Alliance — comprising seven political parties – has lined up a series of demonstrations, starting this Wednesday, to put pressure on the electoral management body to institute measures that could produce a free, fair and credible poll.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Republic Police cleared the protest, which has since received the backing of five other opposition parties, namely the National People’s Party, the MDC led by Thokozani Khupe, the New Patriotic Front, Build Zimbabwe and MAAT Zimbabwe.
But despite the shrill cries from the opposition, Zanu PF said it is happy with the work being done by Zec, describing its rivals as faultfinders who are difficult to please.
“We are not worried about their demonstrations because they are not demonstrating against Zanu PF but Zec. It should be known that we are not a complaining party; rather we are a party of action,” Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, told the Daily News on Saturday.
“We have very clear policies and we are not cry-babies like those in the opposition. We have nothing against Zec. We are a seasoned party, we have the history of liberating the nation and we are therefore aware of our responsibilities,” he added.
Zanu PF’s rivals want Zec and its chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba, to reprint ballots for the July 30 vote, citing lack of transparency in the current process.
They have also demanded that the company printing the ballot papers be selected through an open tender and that the inspection of the ballot be done in terms of the agreed procedures.
It is also being argued that Zec allows for stakeholder participation in the storage and distribution of the ballot paper to polling stations.
Zec also stands accused of failing to avail an “accurate” copy of the voters’ roll and allowing an independent audit of the voters’ roll.
It has been further claimed that the voters’ roll released by Zec has various anomalies such as many entrants with the same identity numbers, many entrants with same identity numbers for different faces of people, non-existent entrants aged around 150 years and many entrants with non-existent houses.
Because of these and other alleged irregularities, opposition parties want Zec to either carry out the agreed positions for transparency and accountability purposes or be reconstituted.
Chigumba has dismissed these demands saying perception that Zec was a conduit for rigging polls were misplaced as the elections mother body was simply following legal provisions in handling elections.
She said it was Zec’s sole responsibility to design, print, and distribute ballot papers, adding that anyone else other than Zec demanding to be involved in designing, printing and distribution of the ballot paper would be deemed to be attempting to usurp the powers and independence of the electoral management body.
Analysts told the Daily News yesterday that the opposition must escalate its grievances to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union in the wake of what appears to be a conspiracy between Zanu PF and Zec.
This comes as the MDC Alliance’s grievances have already captured the eye of some observers, with the European Union saying Zec has a responsibility to abide by the law.
Professor of World Politics at the London School of African and Oriental Studies, Stephen Chan, said now that election observer missions are now on the ground, there was need for the aggrieved parties to hype up their concerns.
“Right now, three weeks before the election, we have entered the season of bluff and counter-bluff. With the main observer teams all now in Zimbabwe, there is no doubt intense lobbying of the group leaders — who will all be seasoned and experienced, very senior, persons,” said Chan.
“So the shrillness has got to be moderated by substantial evidence and not just accusations. There is no doubt, however, that the MDC was damaged by (former Prime Minister Morgan) Tsvangirai’s death and, more than that, because Tsvangirai did not declare a succession process some time before his death.
“The MDC preparations were handicapped from the start. Chamisa has, since then, done well, but he needs to appear statesmanlike before the observers. Zimbabwe hasn’t had European and Commonwealth observers for a long time. I hope Chamisa has done his homework regarding the irregularities, and done his homework regarding the observer leaders to whom he is appealing,” said Chan.
Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said although Chamisa will not be able to stop the elections, the credibility of the whole process could be put on the line if his party pulls out of the elections.
“Chamisa or MDC Alliance cannot stop elections. We have 23 presidential candidates and 128 political parties. Chamisa is one of 23 candidates and MDC Alliance is one of 128 political parties contesting these polls. The biggest thing the MDC Alliance can do is to pull out of the elections, and this will only make the elections less credible as the Alliance is the biggest opposition party,” said Saungweme.
He added that regional bodies were now more concerned with the stability of the region rather than democracy and could endorse the elections even if they are held under a veneer of democracy.
“Other countries including Sadc and the West want stability in Zimbabwe. So if Chamisa pulls out and Mnangagwa wins other countries will be supporting Mnangagwa to make Zimbabwe stable. So Chamisa’s capacity to stop elections is not there. It will be like trying to block floodgates by open palms”.
Saungweme said while some of the demands the MDC Alliance was making were reasonable, overall reform of Zec and other big reforms were undoable in two weeks. DailyNews